MoboReader> Literature > The Fair God; or, The Last of the 'Tzins: A Tale of the Conquest of Mexico

   Chapter 33 PUBLIC OPINION

The Fair God; or, The Last of the 'Tzins: A Tale of the Conquest of Mexico By Lew Wallace Characters: 6789

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

Guatamozin, accompanied by Hualpa, left the city a little after nightfall. Impressed, doubtless, by the great event of the day, the two journeyed in silence, until so far out that the fires of the capital faded into a rosy tint low on the horizon.

Then the 'tzin said, "I am tired, body and spirit; yet must I go back to Tenochtitlan."

"To-night?" Hualpa asked.

"To-night; and I need help."

"What I can, O 'tzin, that will I."

"You are weary, also."

"I could follow a wounded deer till dawn, if you so wished."

"It is well."

After a while the 'tzin again spoke.

"To-day I have unlearned all the lessons of my youth. The faith I thought part of my life is not; I have seen the great king conquered without a blow!"

There was a sigh such as only shame can wring from a strong man.

"At the Chalcan's, where the many discontented meet to-night, there will be," he resumed, "much talk of war without the king. Such conferences are criminal; and yet there shall be war."

He spoke with emphasis.

"In my exile without a cause," he next said, "I have learned to distinguish between the king and country. I have even reflected upon conditions when the choosing between them may become a duty. Far be they hence! but when they come, Anahuac shall have her son. To accomplish their purpose, the lords in the city rely upon their united power, which is nothing; with the signet in his hand, Maxtla alone could disperse their forces. There is that, however, by which what they seek can be wrought rightfully,-something under the throne, not above it, where they are looking, and only the gods are,-a power known to every ruler as his servant when wisely cared for, and his master when disregarded; public opinion we call it, meaning the judgment and will of the many. In this garb of artisan, I have been with the people all day, and for a purpose higher than sight of what I abhorred. I talked with them. I know them. In the march from Xoloc there was not a shout. In the awful silence, what of welcome was there? Honor to the people! Before they are conquered the lake will wear a red not of the sun! Imagine them of one mind, and zealous for war: how long until the army catches the sentiment? Imagine the streets and temples resounding with a constant cry, 'Death to the strangers!' how long until the king yields to the clamor? O comrade, that would be the lawful triumph of public opinion; and so, I say, war shall be."

After that the 'tzin remained sunk in thought until the canoe touched the landing at his garden. Leaving the boatmen there, he proceeded, with Hualpa, to the palace. In his study, he said, "You have seen the head of the stranger whom I slew at Nauhtlan. I have another trophy. Come with me."

Providing himself with a lamp, he led the way to what seemed a kind of workshop. Upon the walls, mixed with strange banners, hung all kinds of Aztec armor; a bench stood by one of the windows, covered with tools; on the floor lay bows, arrows, and lances, of such fashion as to betray the experimentalist. The corners were decorated, if the term may be used, with effigies of warriors preserved by the process peculiar to the people. In the centre of the room, a superior attraction to Hualpa, stood a horse, which had been subjected to the same process, but was so lifelike now that he could hardly think it dead. The posture chosen for the ani

mal was that of partial repose, its head erect, its ears thrown sharply forward, its nostrils distended, the forefeet firmly planted; so it had, in life, often stood watching the approach or disappearance of its comrades. The housings were upon it precisely as when taken from the field.

"I promised there should be war," the 'tzin said, when he supposed Hualpa's wonder spent, "and that the people should bring it about. Now I say, that the opinion I rely upon would ripen to-morrow, were there not a thick cloud about it. The faith that Malinche and his followers are teules has spread from the palace throughout the valley. Unless it be dispelled, Anahuac must remain the prey of the spoiler. Mualox, the keeper of the old C? of Quetzal', taught me long ago, that in the common mind mystery can only be assailed by mystery; and that, O comrade, is what I now propose. This nameless thing here belonged to the stranger whom I slew at Nauhtlan. Come closer, and lay your hand upon it; mount it, and you may know how its master felt the day he rode it to death. There is his lance, there his shield, here his helm and whole array; take them, and learn what little is required to make a god of a man."

For a moment he busied himself getting the property of the unfortunate Christian together; then he stopped before the Tihuancan, saying, "Let others choose their parts, O comrade. All a warrior may do, that will I. If the Empire must die, it shall be like a fighting man,-a hero's song for future minstrels. Help me now. We will take the trophy to the city, and set it up in the tianguez along with the shield, arms, and armor. The rotting head in the summer-house we will fix near by on the lance. To-morrow, when the traders open their stalls, and the thousands so shamelessly sold come back to their bartering and business, a mystery shall meet them which no man can look upon and afterwards believe Malinche a god. I see the scene,-the rush of the people, their surprise, their pointing fingers. I hear the eager questions, 'What are they?' 'Whence came they?' I hear the ready answer, 'Death to the strangers!' Then, O comrade, will begin the Opinion, by force of which, the gods willing, we shall yet hear the drum of Huitzil'. Lay hold now, and let us to the canoe with the trophies."

"If it be heavy as it seems, good 'tzin," said Hualpa, stooping to the wooden slab which served as the base of the effigy, "I fear we shall be overtasked."

"It is not heavy; two children could carry it. A word more before we proceed. In what I propose there is a peril aside from the patrols in the tianguez. Malinche will hear of-"

Hualpa laughed. "Was ever a victim sacrificed before he was caught?"

"Hear further," said the 'tzin, gravely. "I took the king to the summer-house, and showed him the head, which he will recognize. Your heart, as well as mine, may pay the forfeit. Consider."

"Lay hold, O 'tzin! Did you not but now call me comrade? Lay hold!"

Thereupon they carried the once good steed out to the landing. Then the 'tzin went to the kiosk for the Spaniard's head, while Hualpa returned to the palace for the arms and equipments. The head, wrapped in a cloth, was dropped in the bow of the boat, and the horse and trappings carried on board. Trusting in the gods, the voyageurs pushed off, and were landed, without interruption, near the great tianguez.

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